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Emilie and the Hollow World Paperback – Apr 2 2013
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"A rollicking adventure yarn with plenty of heart - Emilie & the Hollow World shouldn't be missed."
-Ann Aguirre, USA Today bestselling author
"A swashbuckling escape for avid readers that trades buttoned-up boundaries for unbridled adventure."
-Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Wells has struck pure gold with this exciting and elaborate story that has no limits on its imagination—it perpetually surprises and entertains and keeps the reader guessing. Filled with warmth and danger and plenty of suspense, Emilie and the Hollow World is such a good, honest, real adventure that just…hits the spot. It’s just so good."
-Jet Black Ink
"Martha Wells introduces the newest fearless heroine in teen literature: Emilie. Wells takes readers on an adventure that braves a new world and rivals the Journey to the Center of the Earth!"
-Lovey Dovey Books
"If you’re looking for a fun YA adventure with a lovely, strong female protagonist, Emilie and the Hollow Worldis the book for you."
-A Fantastical Librarian
"This book is definitely a good choice for younger readers, especially female ones, who a geeky parent is looking to introduce the wonders of genre reading."
-Paul Weimer, SF Signal
Emilie and the Hollow World is one of the best and most entertaining YA books I've ever read, because it's a charming old-fashioned adventure book.
"Read it. Give it to your local twelve-year-olds. It’s made of win."
-Liz Bourke, Sleeps With Monsters
About the Author
Martha is the author of several fantasy novels that have been published by Tor and HarperCollins, including Death of a Necromancer, which was a 1999 Nebula Nominee. Publisher's Weekly has said of her work: "Wells continues to demonstrate an impressive gift for creating finely detailed fantasy worlds rife with many-layered intrigues and immensely personable characters." And she has been lauded by authors such as Anne McCaffrey and Robin Hobb. Her books have been published in eight languages, including French, Spanish, German, Russian, and Dutch. Her most recent novel, The Cloud Roads was released by Night Shade Books in 2011. The sequel The Serpent Sea pubbed in January 2012. The author lives in College Station, TX.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells was a fast-paced adventure full of rolicking fun and fantastical characters. The small steampunk influences were nicely integrated and the writing flowed quickly and crisply. Though I do feel this story is geared for the middle-grade to younger-YA audience, I think it has enough mystery and intrigue, coupled with a plucky heroine, to satisfy older readers.
Emilie has decided to run away from her uncle's home so that she can attend a school run by her cousin. When she finds herself without enough money for the ferry fare, she decided to stowaway but finds herself on the wrong ship. She soon meets and befriends the colorful cast that is directing the ship's course and finds herself on a journey to the center of the Earth. Emilie must summon all of her courage and ingenuity in order to survive the beautiful, but deadly, new world.
Emilie was a wonderful protagonist. She was smart and resourceful and determined to prove herself to everyone involved. She wasn't an unbelievable badass, but instead was a sensitive but determined young lady. She didn't give up when the odds were against her, nor did she lay down and cry when she found herself alone. Emilie perserveared throughout the novel and worked for her happy ending.
Emilie and the Hollow Worldhad an incredicble cast of supporting characters and quite a few of them were strong women. My favorites have to be Miss Marlende, an adventuress on a mission to save her father, and Rani & Kenar, two Hollow World denizens that has been helping Miss Marlende's father. There was also a nice little part at the end with Daniel, an apprentice sorcer not too much older than Emilie.
The plot was filled with adventure and daring rescues. There were double-crosses and backstabbing galore and the twists just kept on coming until the very end. I think this is a perfect adventure story for younger readers, especially those that might be displaying an interest in steampunk. Emilie and the Hollow World was such a fun read and I'm hoping that we get many more of Emilie's adventures soon.
Thank you to Netgalley and Strange Chemistry for providing an ARC copy of this book
The novel opens with sixteen-year-old Emilie running away from her uncle's home and trying to slip aboard the local ferry. Things go awry and instead she's forced to swim to another nearby ship to hide from the dock guards. Turns out it just isn't Emilie's night, however, for soon the ship she's crawled up on is under attack and she quickly finds herself dodging bullets, meeting a not-at-all human- person, and then traveling the "aether current" into the world at the center of our own. Soon, she learns she's now an involuntary part of a rescue party/scientific expedition whose members include Lord Engal, Vale Marlende (her father is the aether scientist/sorcerer whose earlier expedition was lost), and Kenar (the strange-looking man whose home is in the Center of the Earth and who came to our world seeking help).
Arriving in the Hollow World, the group soon faces technical problems that may prevent them from getting home, making finding Vale's father all the more important as only he may be able to repair their ship. Their search leads Emilie into many adventures where her courage, empathy, and resourcefulness are greatly tested.
The positives are many. Emilie & the Hollow World is a light, quick read with a likable, "plucky" main character thrown into a series of fast-paced adventures nicely separated by quieter moments. The prose is efficient and carries you smoothly through the story. The main obstacle to their goals--a decaying ancient empire of merpeople embroiled in a civil war--is intriguing and the glimpses we see of its cities and social structure are well done and leave the reader wanting more. All of these, as mentioned, make for a solidly entertaining tale.
There is, however, a richness and sense of depth/vividness missing from Emilie & the Hollow World that would have made it more than solidly entertaining. Characterization is thin across the board, even for our main character. We're given the backstory of why Emilie is running away, but it never feels embedded in her character; it simply feels like a quick device to get her onto her adventure. She finds her inner resourcefulness and bravery as she faces danger after danger, the narrator oftentimes telling us as she does so ("She couldn't believe she had done it"), but from the very start there was little belief she wouldn't and so this doesn't feel much like growth or change in her character. I also felt that my perception of her age was all over the place; sometimes she sounded/felt like she was much younger than her sixteen years of age, more like a 12-13-year-old, and other times she felt/sounded much older, as if she were more in her late 20's.
The merfolk empire is intriguing, as mentioned, but thin, and interactions with them feel very perfunctory, and one never gets a sense of danger (or sometimes even competency) from them. The other major adversary, a rival Lord named Ivers, is pretty stereotypical and that storyline is quite predictable, especially the "surprise" at the end. The larger world--the Hollow World, Emilie's world, the use of magic mixed with science--feels as thin as the characterization. Some might call it streamlined, or prefer (especially with YA) an author who uses a "light" hand in this regard, but I wanted much more all around; I wanted a more vivid, richer, more immersive experience. For that reason, I'd place this definitely in the YA category (as opposed to a more crossover type of reading experience) and also say that the younger range of YA would probably enjoy it more than the older readers.
Emilie & the Hollow World ends with resolution of the main storyline, but also clearly leaves room for further adventures for Emilie with at least some of her compatriots. This was a quick enough, entertaining enough read that I'd pick up a second, but with hopes that the plot and character both deepen over this relatively plain and simple introduction.
Unfortunately, I thought it fell far short of its potential.
My biggest problem with the book was Emilie herself. At the start of the book she's supposed to come across as sheltered and naive, I think-- most of her worldly knowledge comes from reading romantic adventure novels-- but there's a line between "sheltered and naive" and "really incredibly dim," and Emilie falls firmly on the dim side.
For example: In the opening pages of the book, having recently run away from her uncle's home to embark on a "carefully" planned journey, she's surprised to find out that walking for two days with no food really isn't a very pleasant experience.
I'm sorry, but by the age of four I had worked out that if I ever wanted to run away, sneaking into the kitchen to pack some sandwiches would probably be a good first step. Emilie's sixteen, and-- unlike my four-year-old self-- presumably has the advantage of actually being tall enough to reach the bread. But, no, apparently it never occurred to her.
Then she stows away on a ship, gets discovered, and promptly gets indignant that some of the crew are so unfair as not to trust her at first sight. Never mind the fact that she's discovered just after someone else has tried to kill the entire crew; OBVIOUSLY she didn't have anything to do with that, so why are they being so unfaaiiir?
She does get character development after a fashion, as the book goes on. Unfortunately, it's fairly perfunctory and mostly consists of her going from "very naive and not much brighter than a four-year-old" to "basically capable but completely bland." She goes through the motions of having an adventure, and we're told she grows from her experiences, but that's about it. Her backstory feels like it was tacked on as an afterthought and barely seems to have had any impact on her as a character.
The other characters are little more than cardboard cutouts from the start, and the world-building is just as shallow and basic as the characters. What could have been a rich, strange, alien world is tragically lacking in both substance and atmosphere. Only the most vague and general details are given of the people and cultures who live within the Hollow World, and honestly Emilie's own world fares little better. The system of mixed magic and technology feels kind of like it was made up as it was went along, whenever a new trick was needed to solve a problem in the plot.
To sum up: In the midst of what should have been an exciting, dangerous, and bewildering adventure, I never felt much emotional connection to any of the characters or the world they lived in, and I couldn't bring myself to care about the story. Plenty of people seem to like this one, so it may just be me, but I can't recommend it.
The story has a pretty solid cast of characters. At the center of the story is Emilie, who has followed in her mother's footsteps and run away from home, only to find out it's a lot harder than the stories portray it to be. Still, Emilie isn't a helpless girl. Through the story, she's developed as a likeable, competent character. One thing I liked about Emilie is that she's very normal. She's not special in any magical way, she's not the daughter of famous wizards or nobility. On her own merits, Emilie is able to make something of herself. While she doesn't become the Queen of the Hollow World, she does manage to help out her friends. It's a nice personal journey that avoids the traps of Mary Sue characters and trite plotlines of saving the world.
The world itself is different from our own. There is a bit of magic, but it's more along the lines of steampunk than sword and sorcery. In this case, the sorcerers can use magic for illusions and for protective bubbles. There are steam ships, pistols, rifles, telegraphs and gaslights. It has a late 1800s vibe to it. The Hollow World adds another layer of fantasy with the inclusion of strange races of creatures. There's the fury, lizard like Cirathi, the iridescent merpeople of the Sealands, and some hostile plant people. The descriptions of the Hollow World and the people therein reminded me of Martha Wells' Books of the Raksura series. She has a knack for creating strange races that seem completely foreign but also intriguing. It keeps the story interesting and provides plenty of fuel for your imagination.
That said, it is a young adult novel, and the story doesn't quite break the magical bar set by Harry Potter. However, it's still a good book and very enjoyable. There is action, plenty of adventure and some nice character development throughout. The book also ends with some good resolution and no annoying cliff hangers. If you're looking for some entertaining escapism that ventures off to exotic locales, I recommend checking out Emilie & the Hollow World. It earns a four out of five.
This is a great example of such. It's exciting enough that I think even boys would read it, and Emilie is a nifty and resourceful character.
This is not the kind of book that goes in for lots of character development; the other characters are well-described but not especially nuanced- which is appropriate for such a book. Emilie does grow, and learns more about her capabilities and talents as things progress.
Add in some fun steampunk-ish elements, a world inside our world, and an elaborately twisty plot, and this was a lot of fun! (I'm an adult, and this is a YA novel.)
A minor quibble: Emilie's boots. She lost them when escaping one imprisonment. This was a point. Then, a few chapters later, she had them again. This possession was also pointed out explicitly several times. Then, toward the end, Emilie regretted that her boots had been lost during that first imprisonment! A reader that could do some continuity checking would have been helpful; while this was a really minor detail, it threw me out of the story when the first contradiction occurred.
Still! It's a good story set in a world that is intriguing, and I look forward to reading more.
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